Ron Littlepage writes for The Florida Times Union – “In their current forms, the House and Senate budgets amount to a middle-finger salute to Florida’s voters. Those would be the voters who in 2014 overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, clearly declaring they want millions of dollars spent annually to reinvigorate the state’s Florida Forever program by purchasing conservation land. As of this week, the House budget would defund Florida Forever and the Senate budget would provide a pittance. And for good measure, both budgets would defund the Rural and Family Lands program, which allows the state to purchase permanent conservation easements on farms and ranches while allowing agricultural operations to continue. Since the passage of Amendment 1, legislators have consistently ignored the will of the voters… Now is the time to let your representative and senator know this arrogance will no longer be tolerated. Under the Senate budget, a lot of the money meant for Florida Forever is being siphoned off to support Senate President Joe Negron’s crusade to build huge reservoirs to help the Everglades and to stop the toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee… Preventing this disaster is a noble goal, but it’s not land acquisition.” Read The Legislature’s refusal to carry out the voters’ will is inexcusable
The North Florida Land Trust writes – “The Canaan Ranch, Cannon Family Farm, Land Family, Lyme Lafayette, Rainey Pasture and South Prong properties are all listed as Tier 1 candidates for protection under the Rural and Family Lands Program… Senator Bradley’s… budget request provides [no] money to that program… ‘We just cannot believe that… Senators not only ignored the interests of hardworking family farmers and ranchers in their own districts, they ignored the will of 75% of the voters in… Florida who voted in favor of Amendment 1 in 2014,’ said McCarthy... Representative Cyndi Stevenson voted… to eliminate funding for land conservation including the Florida Forever and the Rural & Family Land Programs. ‘…We understand that Senator Latvala and Speaker Corcoran both have an interest in running for Governor. So does Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency administers the Rural and Family Lands Program. Commissioner Putnam requested $50 million for the Program, but Senator Latvala and Speaker Corcoran have refused to fund even one dollar. Two of these elected officials are playing politics and positioning themselves for higher office at the expense of hardworking farmers and ranchers and in complete defiance of the will of millions of Floridians,’ said McCarthy… Meanwhile, Senator Bradley proposed nearly $300 million for Everglades projects in his budget request. ‘When will someone stand up and do… what is right, what the people voted for in 2014 and what is needed to protect the economy and environment in northeast Florida?’ asked McCarthy.” Read Senator Bradley Hurting Farmers/ Ranchers
Jaclyn Lopez writes for my Palm Beach Post – “Manatees and panthers have come to embody Florida’s incredible biodiversity, engendering support for wildlife statewide. But boat strikes and collisions with vehicles – along with habitat loss and climate change – are killing them at record rates. Now, manatees will be even more susceptible to population losses since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service… downgraded the docile animals from endangered to threatened… And the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has called on Fish and Wildlife to downgrade the Florida panther as well… [F]or both manatees and panthers, 2016 was the deadliest year yet. Of the 520 manatee deaths…, boat strikes killed 104, accounting for 20 percent of total mortalities. There were 42 known panther deaths in 2016, and 34 of those were confirmed to be from collisions with vehicles… For manatees, the average number of deaths is more than seven times what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species’ recovery… With a recovery target of 240 panthers, the current population – estimated at anywhere from 120 to 230 – will never be able to sustain itself if the animals keep getting hit by cars and losing habitat… These threats add up to bleak long-term prospects for panthers and manatees. It is good news that Florida manatee and Florida panther populations have increased. But the state’s human population has increased, too, and the pace of development has only quickened. Endangered species protection and public support for sharing space with these Florida natives must remain a priority for Florida manatees and panthers.” Read Despite gains, manatees and panthers still need help
Alex Leary reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota is leading a push to reverse a federal decision to downgrade protections for manatees. ‘This decision was disappointing and potentially very harmful to the survival of the iconic Florida animal,’ reads a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke… The letter said, ‘during the public comment period for the downlisting rule, nearly 87,000 comments opposed the rule with only 72 comments in support. We would also note that the scientists invited by the Fish and Wildlife Service to formally review the downlisting plan opposed weakening manatee protections. Letter signers included Reps. Kathy Castor, Daniel Webster, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Val Demings, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist. Read the letter below… ‘…Despite the agency’s assertion that a downlisting… would not affect federal protections for the manatee, the move could cause a broader reassessment of critical state and local protections for the animals. In fact, just days after this rule proposal was announced, the Brevard County commissioners approved a resolution in requesting that the Florida Legislature review slow-speed zones currently in place for boats and called for a reconsideration of the state’s Manatee Sanctuary Act, which established protections for manatees and their habitats in several counties, including Sarasota and Manatee…’” Read Florida lawmakers press feds to reverse manatee decision
A.G. Gancarski reports for Florida Politics – “Sen. Bill Galvano’s [SB 532] will be head to the Senate Floor… CS/SB 532, the Public Notice of Pollution Act, requires polluters to notify the Department of Environmental Protection of any spill within 23 hours. The DEP then would have 24 hours to inform the public of the spill. Violators could be penalized up to $10,000 per day… In September, Gov. Rick Scott issued an administrative order requiring notifications of pollution… Challenged in court, a judge said that an administrative order wouldn’t suffice, and the Florida Legislature would have to pass a law. Galvano’s bill, which cleared every committee stop without a single no vote, could be that law. There were no questions. And no amendments. And the bill moved to Third Reading. The House version of the bill has yet to be put on a committee agenda, however.” Read Bill Galvano’s ‘spill bill’ advances toward Senate floor vote
Drew Wilson reports for Florida Politics – “A Senate panel approved a bill by… Sen. Jeff Brandes that would implement solar tax breaks approved by Florida voters last year. More than 70 percent of Florida voters backed Amendment 4 in August, which makes it so the increased value of a home due to renewable energy improvements such as solar panels can’t be included when assessing a property’s value for tax purposes. SB 90, which is supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, doesn’t include the same safety standards and disclosure requirements found in the House version, HB 1451. Opponents of the House bill say most of those regulations are handled elsewhere in state law and they would only put a damper on solar panel sales. The Energy & Policy Institute said most of the language in that bill was written by utility company Florida Power & Light. Brandes told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Finance and Tax that he… hasn’t agreed to the extra regulations in [the House] bill. The Republican lawmaker said, ‘all the options are on the table’ when asked if he would be willing to let his bill die if he can’t reach an agreement with the House… ‘Clearly we’d prefer a clean bill,’ he said… A House bill filed by Democrat Lori Berman that is identical to Brandes’ solution has yet to be heard in committee.” Read Jeff Brandes wants to keep renewable energy bill clean
The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “No Everglades restoration plan will succeed without cleaning up the polluted water coming from Lake Okeechobee. That’s why the Florida Senate’s strong vote Wednesday to build a reservoir south of the lake is so critical… The House should approve the legislation and send SB 10 to the governor… There is value in building storage north of the lake, in cracking down on septic tanks and in taking other measures that would benefit the Everglades. But none of the are excuses for delaying a southern reservoir.” Read Move forward with Senate’s reservoir plan
Anthony Man reports for the Sun Sentinel – “U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch lacerated his profession – politics – on Thursday for its reliance on money, and warned the influx of campaign cash since 2012 has had a corrupting influence. Speaking to about 150 people at a town hall meeting…, Deutch repeated his call for amending the Constitution to limit the influence of money in politics… ‘A democracy for sale is not a democracy at all.’ He said the 5-4 Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court removing limits on political spending by individuals and corporations have had a devastating effect. ‘We can already see the damage.’… Deutch said… many of his colleagues live in fear of running afoul of big money interests… ‘Big money can come into any campaign and squash any candidate who has the good sense, for example, to say climate change is real.’ Deutch, a Democrat who represents most of Broward and southeast Palm Beach County, wants to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United… [O]ther South Florida Democrats are among the 96 co-sponsors… ” Read South Florida congressman wants to change Constitution to curb money in politics
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
April 18, 5:00 pm – Attend the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium (8350 N. Tamiami Trail) in Sarasota. The symposium will host presentations on climate change and its consequences for Florida, featuring Dr. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami, noted geologist and sea-level rise expert. The sustainability manager for the City of Sarasota will also discuss Sarasota’s “Climate Adaptation Plan.” Tickets are $15 for the general public, and free for students. To purchase tickets, click here. To watch a promotional video, click here.
April 18, 5:30 pm – Attend a Poster Making Party for the March for Science at Fire Betty’s Arcade Bar in Tallahassee. Materials will be provided. For more information, click here.
April 18, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the Sarasota County Solar Co-op at the North Sarasota Library (2801 Newtown Blvd) in Sarasota. To register, click here.
April 21, 9:30 am – Attend a celebration of Sierra Club Founder John Muir’s Birthday in Brooksville. There will be a guided trail walk and a picnic luncheon featuring Jerry Cowling as John Muir. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
April 22, 7:30 am – Attend Clermont Earth Day & Lake Clean-Up 2017 at the Lake Hiawatha Preserve (450 N. 12 St./SR 561) (West of the roundabout) in Clermont. To register for the Lake Clean Up, click here. Several prizes will be given to volunteers for most weight, youngest participant, oldest participant, oddest object found, etc. Pre-registrants will be given T-shirts. After the clean up, there will be environmental education, an earth kids zone, DJ music and entertainment, food vendors, prizes, and more! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (352) 394 – 3500.
April 22, 11:00 am – Participate in Tallahassee’s March for Science. Participants will gather at 11:00 am at Anita Favors Thompson Plaza (124 West Van Buren St.) and begin marching to the Capitol at noon. For more information, click here.
April 22, 12:00 pm – Attend the Green Earth vs Phosphate Pot-Luck & Discussion at the Sustainable Living Center (10665 SW 89th Ave.) in Hampton. For more information, call (352) 283- 5536.
April 25, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the East Broward County Solar Co-op and the West Broward County Solar Co-op at the Northwest Regional Library (3151 N. University Drive) in Coral Springs. To register, click here.
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